How to Make an Epoxy Resin River Table
Learn how to make an epoxy river table using glow powder and how to embed objects in clear resin. This live edge epoxy river table is made with sinker cypress and glows in the dark with no lights.
The leftover sinker cypress from my previous river table and my desire to improve my skills and add unique features inspired me to create this glow table.
Repetitive tasks bore me easily and I dreaded the thought of making the same table twice.
Although this sinker cypress table matches the other live edge river table, it is very different because it GLOWS in the dark without lights.
Tools I Used for this River Table
- DIY Plans for this Project
- Table Top Epoxy Resin
- Glow Powder (Neutral Sky Blue) – Link directly to manufacturer site. If you prefer to purchase from Amazon, click here.
- Fire Glass
- Hairpin Table Legs
- UV Black Light Strip
- Black Light for Testing
- Micro Butane Torch
- Hot Glue Gun
- Porter Cable Heat Gun
- CA Glue
- Silicon Caulk
- Dovetail Clamps
- Renaissance Wax
- Ryobi Circular Saw
- Straight Edge for Saw
- Mixing Sticks
- Dewalt Planer
- Air Compressor
- Air Compressor Hose & Retractable Reel
- Tack Cloth
- Carpenter’s Square
- Utility Pry Bar
- Milwaukee Orbital Sander
- Ryobi Orbital Sander
- Boeshield Rust Free
- Rubber Gloves XL
- Ear Protection
- Eye Protection
- Dust Mask
Often times, I experiment with many different products and tools while working with epoxy resin. Therefore, the products I use in a certain project may not be my favorite.
For your convenience, I’ve compiled a complete list of my favorite Epoxy Resin material and tools – click HERE to see the list.
DIY Digital Plans for this Project
Additionally, I have DIY Plans available for download which include the following:
- 82 page PDF
- Tool List
- Material List
- Resin Volume Formula
- Woodworking Tips & Techniques
- Full Companion Video of Build
Click HERE to download the epoxy resin river table DIY project plans today.
Sinker Cypress Wood
First of all, I used Sinker Cypress for this project as I have in many of my other projects.
This is the third sinker cypress table projects within the last 12 months. I like using sinker cypress because it’s unique grain patterns, color variations, durability, and history.
Sinker Cypress is fairly soft, which makes it susceptible to dents and scratches. I normally use sinker cypress for desks or entryway tables.
This piece of sinker cypress was already the correct length. I cut the original piece in half for my previous project, so the remaining piece was exactly 48″ long.
The first step in this project was to remove the bark.
First, I peeled away the loose bark with my old chisel that I recently resharpened.
Next, I used a rubber mallet and chisel to remove the bark I couldn’t peel off.
Then, smoothed the surface as much as I could without damaging the live edge.
Milling Sinker Cypress
In order to save time and work later in the project, I needed to mill the sinker cypress to achieve straight sides, a flat surface, square ends, and no loose debris.
I needed to rip the sinker cypress in half with a straight edge, so I used my straight edge jig with dovetail clamps.
Without my straight edge jig, I could not secure the sinker cypress board to the table saw fence because both sides had a live edge (not straight).
First, I located the middle of the board by reading the grain pattern and measuring the front, middle, and back.
Next, I secured the sinker cypress to the jig using the dovetail clamps, raised my table saw blade, and pushed it through. Then, I verified the sides were straight by putting them against each other.
Planing and Sanding
Planing and sanding are the final stages of the milling process.
First, I ran the sinker cypress through my planer and removed 1/64″ with each pass. Also, the wood was planed at the lumber yard, so there was no need to remove a lot of material.
Next, I used my orbital sander with 120 grit sandpaper to remove the loose debris from each live edge.
Each piece of sinker cypress had one straight side, so I was able to use my miter saw to square each end of each board – 4 cuts total.
Melamine Resin Mold
I kept the melamine scraps from my previous led epoxy resin river table project, but I did not have enough to enclose both pieces of sinker cypress in a box.
Since I made a HUGE mess and wasted a lot of epoxy resin during my last project, I used a new technique to seal the ‘river’ and prevent epoxy resin from leaking from the bottom.
First, I used a piece of melamine that was long enough for the sinker cypress.
The melamine was not wide enough to cover the bottom of each board. Each board was hanging off about 4 inches on each side, which didn’t matter because it didn’t fall off.
Next, I measured how wide I wanted the boards and make sure this width was consistent on both ends. I marked the spot with a pencil once each end was parallel.
Then, I cut 2 end pieces of melamine a bit higher than the melamine plus sinker cypress. I attached it to the bottom melamine piece with brad nails.
Finally, I removed the sinker cypress from the melamine.
Apply Furniture Wax
First, I coated the melamine with Renaissance Furniture wax to prevent the epoxy resin from attaching to the melamine.
Then, I used Johnson wax on my previous epoxy resin table projects, but I prefer Renaissance wax because it is a bit thicker and more greasy/wet.
First, I placed the 2 pieces of sinker cypress back on the melamine and lined them up with the pencil marks to ensure each end was the same length.
Next, I used hot glue to seal each end. Then, I used silicone to seal the bottom of each live edge (length wise) to prevent the epoxy resin from seeping through.
Large Epoxy Resin Tub
I built an outfeed table for my table saw and decided to make the underside of the table a tub to catch excess epoxy resin. It’s not pretty, but it works. ;)
The underside of the table simply has 5 12″ 2×4 pieces which protrude vertically to hold pieces of various size.
I placed the sinker cypress glow table on the 2x4s.
Next, I verified the epoxy river table was level with my leveler. Then, I secured the sinker cypress to the melamine with scrap pieces of plywood and a combination of F-clamps and bar clamps.
Test Glow Powder
I wanted this epoxy resin river table look like the other table for matching/decorative purposes, but I also wanted it to be unique.
So, I decided to add glow powder, or photoluminescence powder, to the base epoxy resin layers. Consequently, the river bottom would glow from the river bottom through the fire glass.
My family and I love the ocean, so I chose a blue glow powder (link under ‘Tools I Used’).
To avoid a potential disaster, I tested the glow powder to verify the color before mixing it with epoxy resin. It would be really BAD if I had the wrong color!
I purchased the glow powder from Art N Glow. They included a black light with my purchase, which I used to verify the color of the powder.
The glow powder is charged by UV light, sunlight, or black light.
First Epoxy Resin Pour
For this project, I used table top epoxy resin from Pro Marine Supply. This is my favorite epoxy resin and I highly recommend it to everyone.
Mixture and Ratio
I mixed 24 ounces of epoxy resin (12 ounces of hardener and 12 ounces of resin) per the manufacturers instructions which can be located on their website.
Next, I used a stir stick until the epoxy resin turned cloudy white. It is important to stir the mixture and scrape the sides of the mixing cup. Do NOT whip while stirring because it causes LOTS of bubbles.
Then, I added 2 ounces of glow powder.
How Glow Powder to Use in Resin?
First, many manufacturers recommend 1 part glow powder to 4 parts material. Obviously, they are aggressive with this recommendation because they want to sell more glow powder.
Ultimately, I feel a 1 to 4 ratio is too much for a few reasons:
- Too much glow powder may jeopardize the epoxy resin mixture. I don’t have any proof of this, but it just seems logical to me from my experience with epoxy resin.
- Glow powder is not terribly expensive, but it isn’t cheap.
- I don’t want a bright glow; rather, I prefer a subtle glow.
Essentially, I find a 1 to 12 ratio produces a medium glow and a 1 to 6 ratio works for a bright glow. If a black light will be used to charge the glow powder, I recommend a 1 to 12 ratio.
Click HERE to purchase the glow powder from the manufacturer.
Or click HERE to purchase from Amazon.
Mix Glow Powder in Resin
In other words, 1 ounce of glow powder to 12 ounces of resin for a medium glow. Or, 1 ounce glow powder to 6 ounces of resin for a bright glow.
I continued to stir the mixture. For my many mixtures of epoxy resin, I’ve noticed it ‘gives’ (becomes easier to stir) and turns clear when it is close to ready.
Since the glow powder prevents the material from turning clear, I payed attention to the consistency. Once the epoxy resin was easy to stir, I knew it was ready to pour.
To start, I slowly poured the epoxy resin on the surface of the melamine.
Next, I removed the bubbles and worked the material with a heat gun. I completely forgot to wipe the table with a tack cloth before pouring the material; therefore, the heat gun blew material in the epoxy resin.
I decided to use my micro butane torch to remove the remaining bubbles.
Second Epoxy Resin Pour
After 24 hours, I mixed another 24 ounces of epoxy resin and 2 ounces of glow powder for the second pour.
This is the same mixture as the first pour and the same process; however, I didn’t use the heat gun this time.
I am comfortable mixing 24 ounces of material in a single mixture due to the size of my container and mixing stick.
Normally, I perform sanding at the end of my project. However, I ran out of resin, which is the reason why I sanded at this point in the project.
The sandpaper grits I used was 80 grit, 120 grit, and 220 grit.
I knew I would have to sand more at the end, but only finish sanding (220 grit).
Once I sanded through all the grits, I wiped the wood with a damp cloth to raise the grain.
Next, I sanded with 220 grit one more time.
I used my air compressor to remove the loose debris.
Third Epoxy Resin Pour
The mixture of the third pour was exactly the same as the previous 2 pours. I waited 24 hours after the second pour, used 24 ounces of epoxy resin, and mixed 2 ounces of glow powder.
I removed the bubbles with my micro butane torch.
Next, I decided to use the heat gun to move the epoxy resin around a bit since this pour was rather thick. I removed the debris in the previous step so it was safe to use the heat gun. ;)
Verify Glow Powder
I decided to test the glow powder with a black light while it was curing in the epoxy resin river table.
Additionally, I recommend using this black light to test glow powder.
To do this, I simply shined the UV black light directly on the glow powder for roughly 10 seconds. As I mentioned previously, the light charges the glow powder.
I knew I was done with the glow powder after this simple test.
It was not my goal for the glow powder to shine bright. I wanted more of a gentle glow, which is why I didn’t use the 4:1 ratio as recommended by Art n Glow.
Charge Glow Powder
I decided to purchase a UV black light in order to manually charge the glow powder during the day. Since the table would be indoors and in a part of the house with very little sunlight, I knew the glow powder wouldn’t get an adequate charge.
This was a good decision because the black lights not only charge the epoxy resin, but it also makes the table look really cool during the day.
Next, I tested the black lights when they arrived and they worked perfectly.
Embed Fire Glass
I used fire glass on this table because it will be placed in the same room as the previous LED Epoxy Resin River Table I built a few months back.
The fire glass is rather dusty out of the bag, so I cleaned the glass with water in a bucket.
Next, I put the fire glass in a towel over night to dry.
I poured the fire glass in the epoxy resin river table and spread it evenly across.
Then, I used a carpenter square to make sure the fire glass sat below the surface.
Fourth Epoxy Resin Pour
The fourth epoxy resin pour was the same as the first 3 pours with two minor differences:
- I didn’t put any glow powder in this mixture.
- I mixed 2 24 ounce batches instead of one.
It was my intention for the glow to shine through the fire glass to create a unique light pattern and look.
The glow powder causes the epoxy resin to be cloudy. Therefore, there was no point in using it in the last 48 ounces of epoxy resin.
I mixed both 24 ounce batches in separate containers.
Next, I poured the first 24 ounces and removed the bubbles with my mini butane torch. Then, I immediately poured the last 24 ounces and made sure I got the epoxy resin level with the top of each piece of wood. I removed the bubbles in the same manner as the first 24 ounces.
Finally, I let the epoxy resin cure for 48 hours.
Afterwards, I turned off the lights and I was surprised at how bright the river table glowed in the dark.
I really created more work for myself on my last sinker cypress LED river table because a ton of epoxy resin leaked between the wood and melamine.
Not only did it waste epoxy resin, but I also made it more difficult to remove the melamine and the resin stuck to the underside of the table.
I implemented a few improved techniques on this table.
- First, I sealed the bottom of the wood with silicon caulk.
- Second, I sealed the both ends of the table with hot glue.
In short, I sealed this epoxy resin river table as best as I could and It was SO WORTH IT.
The melamine removed VERY easily. I used a rubber mallet and my utility pry bar.
There was virtually no epoxy resin to scrape from the underside of the table.
I used my chisel to remove the excess silicon and hot glue from the underside of the resin river table.
First, I sanded the underside of the table with 80 grit, 120 grit, and 220 grit.
Next, I used my air compressor to remove the remaining debris.
Although I squared the ends of the table in a previous step, I did it again. Why? Because I needed the live edge river table to be 2 inches shorter in length. ;)
I measured 1” from each with my combination square and marked a straight line with a ruler.
Next, I used my straight edge and circular saw to square each end.
Epoxy River Table Top Coat
First, I mixed 4 ounces of epoxy resin, spread it carefully with a paint chip brush. I made sure to remove the loose bristles from the paint brush before I spread the material.
Next, I used my micro butane torch to remove bubbles.
Oh, forgot to mention earlier. I use a paint chip brush in lieu of a foam brush because I find it easier.
Keep in mind, foam brushes get flimsy from the weight of the epoxy resin.
Ultimately, I wasn’t worried about the brush marks because they eventually gel and blend together.
Table Underside Epoxy Resin Top Coat
First, I let the table top dry for 24 hours and repeated the same process on the underside of the glow table.
After I flipped the table over on a towel to prevent scratching on the top, I mixed 4 ounces of epoxy resin.
Next, I used my chip brush to brush on a light coat of epoxy resin.
Then, I used my micro torch to remove bubbles. This micro torch is VERY useful device – I use it all the time for all sorts of things.
Attach UV Black Light
The UV black lights are meant to be attached with the lights facing down.
However, I need the lights to face up (towards the table) in order to charge the glow powder for the epoxy resin river table.
First, I used CA glue to attach the UV black lights to the underside of the river. The epoxy resin is cloudy, so the marks the CA glue made were not visible.
Ultimately, I had enough length in the string to make 3 wraps. One wrap on the outside, back on the other side, and last one in the middle.
Next, I turned off the lights in my workshop to show the look of the table with the UV Black Lights On.
Then, I turned the UV Black Lights off and the glow powder shined perfectly through the fire glass. At least in my opinion it was perfect. :)
I chose to use Shellac as my finish just like I used on the previous epoxy resin river table I built.
Shellac is great because it dries quickly, protects the wood, and maintains the natural look and feel of the wood. I’m not a fan of the wet (gloss) look – especially over wood that is beautiful like this piece.
Table Underside Finish
I applied two coats to the underside of the table.
Table Top Finish
Next, I flipped the table over and wiped down the top with a tac cloth.
Quick Tip: After I finish using tack cloths or finish brushes (foam brush), I put them in a ziplock bag to reuse them later.
Then, I applied the first coat of shellac and I was careful to not allow the shellac to bleed on top of the epoxy resin. I put the foam brush in a ziplock so it would not dry out.
Next, I lightly sanded with 1000 grit sandpaper and applied a second coat.
Then, I sanded with 2000 grit sandpaper very lightly and applied the third coat.
For the third coat, I mixed the shellac with acetone to thin out the material.
Finally, it was time to attach the table legs to the epoxy resin river table. Also, I used the same hairpin legs as I did on my previous table in order for them to match.
Before I was able to attach the legs, I had to remove a lot of rust from them. I used Boeshield Rust Remover which is the same stuff I use to remove rust from my hand planes and table saw.
Next, I attached them to the bottom of the live edge river table by marking pilot holes, drilling pilot holes, and attaching screws.
My dog (Belle) was hanging out in my shop with me and she doesn’t like the table. Additionally, she kept growling and scooting (quick run with her butt down) away from the table.
I’m really happy with the way this epoxy resin river table turned out. Even though it looks very similar to my other sinker cypress table, it stands out in a unique way by glowing in the dark.
Here are 3 pictures of the table in different modes.
First, this picture is the glow table with the UV black lights ON.
Next, this is a picture of the glow in the dark table with the UV lights OFF.
Finally, this is a picture of the epoxy river table in the early morning hours (6am) when the glow powder is losing it’s charge.